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Home » Archives » August 2010 » The Nature of Design as a Commodity [Previous entry: "Good looking Bland"] [Next entry: "American Graphic Design Awards"] 08/30/2010: "The Nature of Design as a Commodity" listening to: No Reservations
feeling: Eh. Okay i guess.

For the last couple of years I've been really concerning myself with the idea of design being treated as a commodity, and how the industry can avoid it. To some degree it can't, depending on how you define the design industry.

Today I had an epiphany regarding the graphic design industry and commoditization, and it's this: for most clients, and most designers, it already is a commodity because there's no difference between the way those designers solve problems, and there is no difference between the way those clients will interact with designers. To put a finer point on it, there are some clients who will, no matter how talented or insightful the designer they're working with, treat them like a tool. Essentially, they treat them like a mouse. They don't know how to use Photoshop, but they know how to boss around someone who does.

The flip side of that coin is that there are lots of designers, if you must call them that, who will fail to take the initiative to act like designers when given the opportunity. They allow themselves to be treated like a Photoshop Input Device. They won't tell clients when they are wrong. They apply styles, not solve problems. Ultimately, they don't bring anything to the party except the ability to set up files.

That is the definition of a commodity. A good or service that is roughly equivalent, regardless of who provides it. If you let the client dictate what you make and how you make it, you are producing the exact same design that any other designer would produce for that client.

Our only hope, as designers, and as an industry, is to stop taking orders and start being designers.